By Jeff Lehr
The Missouri State Highway Patrol discovered a cache of cocaine Thursday in a semi-truck at the Joplin weigh station on Interstate 44, one day before a New Jersey man caught passing through Jasper County in March with more than 10 pounds of heroin pleaded guilty in federal court.
Another month, another big drug bust on I-44, what law enforcement officials consider one of the principal corridors for drug trafficking in the United States.
“Something just wasn’t right,” Sgt. Kent Casey of the state patrol said Friday of a commercial vehicle enforcement officer’s suspicions regarding an eastbound truck driver who was stopped at the weigh station for a fuel tax violation at 6:05 p.m. Thursday.
The officer called for a state trooper and the trooper obtained consent from the driver to search his semi-truck for drugs or weapons, Casey said.
Under the bottom bunk in the sleeper compartment of the truck’s cab, the trooper allegedly found a large duffel bag containing about 24 kilo-sized bundles of cocaine. Casey said the bundles had been covered in axle grease and wrapped tightly in cellophane to inhibit detection by drug-sniffing dogs. He said those who transport drugs across the country by vehicles often use axle grease, coffee grounds, dryer sheets and other materials in an effort to mask the smell.
The driver, identified as Barrios Benjamin Perez, 46, of San Diego, was arrested on suspicion of first-degree trafficking in drugs, Casey said. Perez was taken to the Greene County Jail in Springfield, and the case was turned over to Drug Enforcement Administration agents for pursuit of federal charges.
Casey said investigators remain uncertain where Perez may have picked up the shipment.
“He’s not telling us that, and he’s not telling us where he was going,” he said.
He said Perez was alone in the truck, which he claimed to own. The semi-truck was seized and its tractor was being held in Carthage on Friday pending pickup by the DEA, he said.
Thursday’s bust appeared to be the second biggest this year on I-44 in Jasper County. A state trooper’s discovery of what initially was believed to be about 12 pounds of heroin in an eastbound Ford Explorer with New Jersey license plates on March 29 was hailed as a $2.6 million seizure and one of the largest ever along the corridor.
The claimed weight of the seizure was lowered to about 10.56 pounds on further investigation by federal agents.
Carlos E. Giraldo-Hurtado, 46, a resident of Colombia legally living in the United States, pleaded guilty on Friday in U.S. District Court in Springfield to possession with intent to distribute at least one kilogram of heroin in connection with the March seizure.
The U.S. attorney’s office for the Western District of Missouri said in a news release that by pleading guilty, Giraldo-Hurtado admitted that he had driven from Elizabeth, N.J., to Dallas to pick up the heroin and drive it back to the East Coast for delivery to another person.
A sentencing date for Giraldo-Hurtado has yet to be set, pending completion of a pre-sentence investigation. He faces not less than 10 years and up to life in prison without parole and a fine up to $4 million for the conviction.
A kilogram, about 2.2 pounds, of cocaine usually sells for about $15,000 to $20,000 in U.S. border towns and common entry cities like Miami, according to federal drug-trafficking experts quoted in articles available on the Internet. In many large U.S. cities, a kilogram can cost $30,000 to $50,000 or more, depending on quality, they say. A kilogram sells for about $1,500 in Colombia, where much of it still originates, according to DEA sources quoted on the Internet.
By Jeff Lehr
- Carthage, Jasper County
Two men running for associate judge in 39th Circuit take case to court
Two men running for associate judge in Missouri’s 39th Circuit began battling it out in a Jasper County courtroom this week.
Jasper County Circuit Judge Gayle Crane heard arguments Wednesday concerning the disclosure of documents sought by Robert “Bobby” George, Aurora, the current Lawrence County prosecutor.
Unveiling ceremony celebrates CHS tiger
Kandy Frazier, Carthage High School principal, summed it up once the new addition to the CHS campus was unveiled Thursday.
The bronze tiger sculpture created by Carthage artist and sculptor Bob Tommey, she said, is the kind of work that would be found at a big university.
Carthage sheltered workshop employees protest manager
Workers at Innovative Industries in Carthage ended a walkout Tuesday after protesting the hiring of a new general manager to oversee the sheltered workshop.
Carthage hot rod bound for Australia
Don and Rosemary Going’s 79-year-old Chevy pickup has enough life left in it for one more journey. It will be a doozy of a trip, though. The 1931 truck, modified as a hot rod, will begin this week traveling halfway around the world, to the land Down Under.
Historic homes offer challenges, but most owners have no regrets
When Marty Ann and Ron Petersen Jr. still lived in Ron’s boyhood home, they would walk through the historic neighborhoods for which Carthage is famous.
“We kept saying, ‘One day, we’re going to live in one of these big houses,’” Marty Ann recalled.
Unveiling ceremony to bring sculpture to Carthage High
When it is unveiled Thursday at its Carthage High School home, it will be the end of a long journey for the Carthage tiger crafted by artist and sculptor Bob Tommey.
Tommey envisioned the sculpture and built support for it at football games, Maple Leaf parades and other events.
Time running out for bill regulating adult businesses
Southwest Missouri residents who have been battling an adult video store and spa near Sarcoxie want action this week on legislation that would regulate sexually oriented businesses in the state.
A bill has been passed by the Missouri Senate and is set for final action in the House.
Jo Ellis: Help line offers advice on gardening
Every year it’s the same thing. Did we plant the garden too soon? Will we get an April windstorm, gully washer or late freeze?
Gardening experts advise not planting until at least 10 days after the last average freeze date in your planting zone (except for cool-weather plants such as peas, spinach and lettuce).
Monitoring towers installed at possible wind farm location
Monitoring towers are up, but it will be years before those measurements might lead to a potential wind farm in northern Jasper County.
Meteorological towers to collect wind data were erected at the first of the year on property being evaluated as a possible wind farm location by Iberdrola Renewals.
Change of venue for Carthage father denied by judge
Jasper County Circuit Judge Gayle Crane has denied a defense motion for a change of venue in the child-murder case of Carthage father Eddie A. Salazar.
Salazar, 29, is accused of killing his 8-month-old son, Eddie A. Salazar Jr., on Feb. 4. He is charged with second-degree murder.
- More Carthage, Jasper County Headlines
- Two men running for associate judge in 39th Circuit take case to court